Sidewalks to Nowhere

Well, that’s it.  We’ll head down to City Hall and pay our fine now.  After that, we’re done.  The new owner can move in tomorrow.

I grinned at the builder’s words, thinking he meant that fees still needed to be paid—for inspections or permits, possibly.  Then, looking into his serious eyes and noticing his chin shaking back and forth, I realized he was serious.

A fine?  Why would you have to pay a fine after building this beautiful new house?

With a wry chuckle, the man with the sun-bleached blonde hair explained.

Our little town, a forward-looking village of sixteen thousand residents, has a requirement in the building code which is intended to make all of the roadways friendly to pedestrians.  Every new home built must include a sidewalk across the front, the specifications of which may be found in the city code, and the cost of which may be passed on to the new homeowner.

It’s a good idea.  I like it.  Except . . .

Well? What’s the problem?

Why wouldn’t the man just have the forms prepared and lay a sidewalk at the same time the big truck backed up to dump the liquid concrete for the driveway?  Another hour or two; it would have taken no more.

I stood there on the side of the little cul-de-sac, looking around the neighborhood, and I laughed out loud.

It is an old neighborhood.  The little craftsman bungalow just finished next door is almost certain to be the last house ever built on the street.  The last one.

Not one of the other houses has a sidewalk in front of it.  They never will.

There is no need.  In this neighborhood, folks walk across lawns to the house next door, or three doors over, leaning over fences to talk with anyone sitting on a patio, or in their garden, or trimming the shrubbery.

If they’re going farther, they cross the pavement at long angles, perhaps even walking down the middle of the street.  Nobody will run them down.  The turnaround is just a few feet up ahead; why would anyone be going that fast?

He’s going to pay a fine of two thousand five hundred dollars.

Rules are rules.

One complies or they pay the price.

I don’t understand.  A segment of sidewalk must be laid in a neighborhood which will never have other segments of sidewalk to join it.

By itself, a sidewalk to nowhere will lie unused.  It will still require care.  Weeds will eventually grow in the expansion cracks filled with dirt that no schoolchild returning home will ever kick out.  If the homeowner doesn’t run a trimmer religiously along both edges, the lawn will inevitably cover it.

In the end, it will lie, cracked and useless, for all the world to laugh at the folly which required its construction in the first place.

The builder will pay the fine.

We don’t believe in sidewalks to nowhere.  We wouldn’t think of making useless rules that are ultimately costly and purposeless.

No one I know would ever make someone pay the price for not complying with the book of rules.

Or, would we?

Adamant, that’s what the city inspector will be.  Unmovable.  Unyielding.

Set in stone.  It’s what adamant means.  Like a diamond, harder than anything around it.

Adamant.  Too often, it’s what we are.

Unmovable. Unyielding. Too often it's what we are. Click To Tweet

It’s why we still build sidewalks to nowhere.

The Stone we should be building on, the one the other builders and their inspectors rejected?  (Matthew 21:42)

Turns out, He’s made of love—flexible, movable love.

Love that bends over backward to reach out to its neighbors.  In ways the rule makers and enforcers can’t possibly understand, love reaches every time.

Every time.

And, He wants us to be the same.

It’s the law we live under, the law of love. (Romans 13:8)

It’s time to stop building sidewalks to nowhere.  Even the old builder knows that.

Love reaches.

Every time.

Sometimes it pays the price first.

Love reaches. Every time. Sometimes it pays the price first. Click To Tweet



“Yes,” said Jesus, “what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden.”
(Luke 11:46 ~ NLT)


He’s a real nowhere man,
sitting in his nowhere land;
Making all his nowhere plans
For nobody.
(Nowhere Man~ McCartney/Lennon ~ British singer/songwriters)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

3 thoughts on “Sidewalks to Nowhere

  1. Oh, I loved this one. And yet, I felt myself cringe if metal can cringe. My husband used to tell me that sometimes my mind was like a metal door that would slam shut. And one day I heard him. I guess because I remember that same metal door. It was on my mom. I wish I could blame it on genetics, or the culture, just about anything. But the truth is, I make my decisions myself and I shut my metal mind. Except that I’ve learned to let it remain a bit open. And can I tell you how I learned to do that? With one little question…what if I’m wrong? I am learning it’s wise to even add a line when I try to speak using concrete words. “I might be wrong, but I think…” And those two things are helping me so much. Because not only did I think I was always right…but I thought it was my job to point out when others were wrong. I’m not proud about it, just stating what’s true.

    And as far as rules…I actually had this poem come to me that says it clearly.


    I live my life by many rules
    all written down in stone,
    And I feel so exhausted,
    and often, so alone.

    The rules I’ve made keep driving me,
    and though I’ve kept so few,
    These rules are not for me alone,
    there are also some for you.

  2. It never ceases to amaze me how we create rules and regulations that are really over the top. This story is a perfect example of that.
    But truly, love trumps all. And Jesus knew exactly how to bend/break those unnecessary rules.
    Blessings, Paul!

    1. From my blog a year ago today, I find this little gem, Martha: “For love should never have led to a terrible cross on a lonely hillside.
      And, love could never have led anywhere else.”
      Boy, did He ever know how to break their rules!
      Blessings, my friend!

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